Danielle P. is currently a senior at SYA France. Danielle comes to SYA from Miller Place High School (NY). Read more of her work throughout the year here.
I am so excited to be a Campus Reporter for SYA France this year. It's crazy that my classmates and I have already been here for over a month. So much has changed during this short period of time; it feels as if departure day was forever ago. Today I'm going to tell you about my first month here in a bit of an unconventional way, but I think that it encompasses how I feel right now pretty well. I hope you enjoy!
(P.S. I know this is around the time last year when I started my application to SYA—if anyone reading this is considering SYA and any questions or is unsure, feel free to contact me! One thing I will say if you are unsure or are doubtful, just do it. SYA has been the best decision I've ever made, so just apply!)
No Longer The New Girl in the House
I first realized that I was exponentially more comfortable and rather at ease in my host house and France in general when I wasn't the new girl in the house anymore. My host family took in a German girl for a week through an exchange program of my host sister's high school. Just a side note: this exchange program is between European high schools and the students do it to practice their English, not French or German. It was pretty strange, to say the least, when I went with my host sister and host father to pick her up, and out of a travel bus came a big group of students and a mountain of suitcases. I felt as if I was just there, in that exact situation, until on the walk home I realized I could understand everything my host dad was saying to my host sister in his regular-speed French. When he said "so you guys are going to be speaking English whenever you're together, then, aren't you?", I jumped for joy and clapped my hands and he laughed and gave me a look that said "you're not getting off the hook that easily." I absolutely adore my host family, and they have been a key part in my improvement in French and my overall experience. My host parents speak very minimal English, so most of the week was occupied by me and Hermine (my host sister) translating between French and English. I felt very proud of myself whenever I could be the middleman; whenever my host mom or Antonia gave each other those blank looks that clearly meant they couldn't understand each other, I was able to jump in and translate pretty well. I can't really explain the feeling well enough, but I felt very useful and happy whenever I would walk into a room where Antonia and my host mom were trying to converse and my host mom breathed a sigh of relief when she saw me because she knew I could help.
However, I think that my most reassuring moment came after a day trip to Saint-Malo, a beautiful walled sea city on the English Channel. Hermine, Antonia, and I were all very tired because we had crossed the baie of Mont Saint Michel the day before as well. Once we got home, Hermine immediately went to bed. All of a sudden I hear a knock at my door, and find my host mother and Antonia in my doorway. My host mom proceeds to ask me to explain how our family eats dinner on Sunday nights (everybody takes what they want, when they want) to Antonia and to show her around the kitchen and where to find whatever she wants to eat. She asked me this because she couldn't explain it all, but she knew that I could and that I knew where everything was, which warmed my heart.
Adopting a New Routine That's My Now Normal
It is an interesting thing, moving into a stranger's home and essentially adopting an entirely new routine. Here, I eat dinner at 8:45 and have gotten used to eating rather extravagant meals for weekend lunches. I'm not even sure how I've done it, but something that I've realized is that we, as humans, are able to adapt pretty amazingly to a lot.
Also, my French has gotten a lot better. My host mom recently told me that she is very proud of me because, apparently, I don't hesitate before I speak anymore and my phrases are becoming much better. She says I've made a lot of progress in French, and even though I don't always hear it and I am nowhere near fluent yet, this excites me because I still have eight more months here and I couldn't be happier about that. I am going to conclude this blog post with a list that I wrote on my personal blog of some of the things that surprised me about France; it entertained many of my friends and family at home so I hope you like it!
10 Differences Between U.S. and French Life
- We drink our coffee in the morning out of bowls.
- Nearly all the drawers and cabinets in my house are opened by using keys and then pulling like you would a regular drawer.
- The French eat fast, almost alarmingly so. (this one really surprised me, and I have verified this with my friends–almost everyone's host families eat much quicker than they do)
- Almost every article of clothing that has words/phrases on it is in English
- The French are very fashionable; nearly every teenage girl has the exact same style.
- The stereotypes that Americans are extremely loud and obnoxious are 1000% true–I couldn't even tell you how many times we have had to shush ourselves because we were speaking too loudly. We basically scream in comparison with the quiet Europeans.
- We waste an extreme amount in the United States. Everything from religiously recycling to the amount of water in the toilet bowls is evidence that France is much better than we are at taking care of and being mindful of the resources we have.
- French high schoolers have a weird liking for hanging out outside of their schools–sitting on the sides of roads, steps, and sidewalks. You would think that most would be doing this to smoke, but I've found that that is not always the case, strangely. They just sit and talk on the concrete.
- French public bathrooms are like mini rooms, and they are greatly appreciated considering in the U.S., anyone could gaze into the mile-wide gap in between the door and the stall barrier and see you.
- French boys actually know how to dress themselves, and combined with their striking good looks, the result is me feeling like I've just seen an average of 10 loves of my life every time I walk to school. C'est la vie.
Thanks for reading! À bientôt!